Monday, February 15, 2010

Poetic thoughts from prison

Personally I don't really think poetry is all that cool. I read some in English courses in college, but normally just thought the writer was insane because none of his words made sense without a commentary from a slightly less insane critic. In high school, when we'd have to write poetry for some standardized unit, I'd find the shortest one or the shallowest one and choose that one to write a paper on.

They were normally written by some tortured soul who suffered from depression and were therefore seen as artists. I thought it was such a con. You can just throw a bunch of words with little syntax, grammar, or sense in them and people would think you were cool and brilliant artists, just because the readers really had no idea what was being said, but didn't want to appear ignorant or unsophisticated.

It wasn't until I found out that Tupac used to write poems that I got intrigued slightly. In fact it was really just the fact that they were normally about sensitive stuff like rainbows and flowers and lovey-dovey stuff that I felt compelled to read more about his life. All his raps were about gunnin' down rival gang members and actin' a fool. But his poems from earlier exposed such a different side of things. Essentially, he was D'Angelo Barksdale, drug slinger on the outside, but poetic softy literature critic inside his prison cell. I think that's a compelling story line. Even most brilliant people and our biggest heroes are insecure people with their own vices, Jekyl and Hyde-ing their way through life.

I just started reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who resisted Hitler in the 30's and 40's and was ultimately killed for his speaking/acting out against the Nazi regime. His thoughts have been so interesting to me as I imagine the implications of a Christian nation gone wrong and how I would react to cultural compromises that tempt me to grab power and release my grasp on the cross of Jesus.

He speaks and writes in the Introduction of his constantly paradoxical nature and wonders aloud "Who am I?" He wrote this excerpt as part of a larger poem from prison describing his internal dilemna of personal self-unawareness:


Who am I? This of the Other?

Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army

fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of


Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!


Depressing, self-torment like this is hard to accept from a man who ultimately laid down his life for the freedom of his flock and Germans as a people. I cycle through these questions about every 7 hours one at a time. Self-doubt and humility seem to be intertwined throughout life as a Christian and at times, can be indecipherable, though they are clearly enemies of one another.

I guess the lesson to be taken away here is that we might not ever overcome our personal disorderly, fleeing army inside us, but I can still be used to bring liberty to the captive, to bring life to the barely-hanging-on, to defeat the powers of lingering sin and death in our lives because of the fact that I am God's.

But also it's important to note that God can use us in spite of our conflicting selves. We can remain "his workmanship, created for good works, which God prepared before hand that we might walk in them" and still be in-process, figuring out what we are, standing firm, yet all the while just wanting to give in to our fleeing armies.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In lieu of having a horrible week due to the loss at Dook*, I've decided to write a few quick hitters (with links) every couple days to both a) soothe the pain and take my mind off of how frustrating this year has been and b) remind myself that things are going to be ok soon.

Here's step one to bringing back some laughs and remembering why, it is always better to be on our side of the tracks.


That's all for now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Preparing for a lifetime of ministry...

Many people have asked me questions in the last few days since returning from 5 weeks of New Staff Training Sunday.

"Where have you been?" "How was it?" "Did they make you drink strange juice or take a Red Pill?" and my personal favorite, "Wait, you were gone?"

But the most important question was "Why were you there?" At a surfa
ce level I normally say that I was there because I have been called to reach the world for Jesus and be a bridge for those who are hurting and suffering the effects of sin to find grace, forgiveness and life. At an even shallower surface level, I might say, "because it was in Daytona and it's January and I have a low tolerance for cold weather...I don't even like ice cream that is slightly too cold (I'm looking at you, Baskin Robbins!)."

The real reason I was down there was to "prepare for a lifetime of ministry." I dont think it hit me until now that I'm in this for the long haul. I know God has called me to reach cultures that are not my own. I know that he is currently equipping me mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for that task, too. But I dont think it was until I was commissioned as a real "missionary" last Sunday that it sunk in.

I had to stand up and recite something that I can't recall now, but I know was meaningful and even made me stop joking around with the 7 others at my dinner table (and some other good friends at other tables via text message) for several minutes and contemplate what the Lord is doing to me and in me.

The keynote speaker was an elderly man who had been on staff with Campus Crusade since the Reformation. He had thin white hair and had been battling cancer for several years. He talked to Vonette Bright (Crusade's founder's wife and local celebrity, pictured above) as if they were platonically involved, in the way people in retirement homes are. But beyond that, and through him leaning too far away from the microphone, he inspired me that students in the world are so lost, need hope in Jesus, and that they are worth enduring hardship for.

He told stories of becoming the first Asian director in the 70's. Again, he was very white and old. He talked of hardships with cultural differences and yet, because of his faith in stepping into discomfort, Crusade is now being used mightily to reach the most open parts of the world spiritually.

I was reminded of the last movie I saw, The Book of Eli. Like Denzel, this man told stories from a deep faith and deep experiences with God. He knew his life was ending soon. Yet he also knew that his purpose was not in vain and neither was his work. He had lived a good life and was enjoying the nostalgia of God's faithfulness. He talked as to inspire us, though told stories as if we were his grandchildren, sitting on his lap, listening to tales of war.

And now, he was content for the Lord to take him any day.

"I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have have kept the faith."

I pray that one day I can stand in front of a group of ignorant, uber-texting, unsanctified kids and speak like that man did of Jesus' power in his faith. I hope that my lifetime will be as rich and I will have stories that will make people wonder if I'm making them up, or if I just have taken my meds in a while. I yearn for the lifetime of ministry highs and lows that I am only beginning now.